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I’ve recently talked about my experience with building compost heaps in my family garden centre and, my thoughts about using compost bins in my own small garden and the advantages of paying a little more and investing in a hot compost bin to speed up the process. The results have been great, with compost from a standard compost bin like the one pictured below taking 6-12 months. However, this was reduced to only 2-3 months while leaving it for 6 months produced the best compost. The problem is the waste needs careful layering and aerating, ideally once a week with a compost aerator or a garden fork.
This was when I decided to try one of the best compost tumblers for myself. Basiclly, compost tumblers are an excellent alturnative to compost bins and, for me, have proven to be very effective at converting my garden waste including the many leaves and kitchen scraps my family of 4 create into what we gardeners call ‘black gold’, in other words, good quality homemade compost. I have found that you still need to keep the ratio of carbon rich waste and nitrogen waste at 2/3 carbon and 1/3 nitrogen. However, you can get away with a 50/50 mix so don’t worry to much about the ratios. I like that the rotating design means it doesn’t need laying the same. It automatically aerates the whole mix when you rotate the drum. Plus, on a decent compost tumbler, this is relatively easy to do. I recommend doing this once a week.
I have found that with the best compost tumbler, I can make compost in as little as 2-3 months, which before could easily take 6 months or longer in a run-of-the-mill compost bin, but to be fair, could be reduced to only 2-3 months with a hotbox compost bin. Even so, with a compost tumbler, this was usually still faster than a hotbox, which is simply an insulated compost bin that speeds up the process by retaining heat.
When it comes down to choosing between the three types of composters, I think that a compost tumbler usually makes compost faster (half the time in most cases) and is easier and less hassle to fill as you don’t have to worry about layering the carbon and nitrogen garden and kitchen waste the same.
If you are one of those gardeners who don’t know where to start (I was there once), I’ve got you covered. If you’re a first-time getting into making your own compost, you will find a comprehensive buyer’s guide further down with all the info you need to pick a good tumbling composter.
The compost tumbler pictured above is one of the best, the Envirocycle Composter. As far as I know, it was one also of the first compost tumblers, and it’s undoubtedly one of the better-designed tumblers. I love that it produces both nutrient-rich compost and liquid compost, also known as compost tea. This tumbler is exceptionally durable and ideal for a smaller garden as it is reasonably compact at 65 litres; however, you can also get a larger 133-litre version suitable for more extensive gardens.
If you need an even larger compost tumbler, the Lifetime 189 Litre Compost Tumbler looks well worth considering. It’s even available as a twin tumbler with a huge capacity of 378 litres. Other features include the internal aeration bar that mixes the waste and allows vital airflow. Overall, it is a solid piece of kit, although it takes a good hour to assemble, if not longer.
Before I get into the reviews and buyers guide further down,.I want to mention the Good Ideas 140 Litre Twin Chamber Tumbling Composter. It has two chambers, each being 70 litres in size. At around £60 last time I checked, give or take a few quid, this offers fantastic value for money. Unlike some alternatives, it is easy to assemble too; just be careful not to overall it as it doesn’t seem to like the pressure on the side locks as it rotates. Overall, though, it’s a great piece of kit and works well.
What to put in your compost tumbler
So, I’ve talked about this in several guides on this site, but I want to quickly go over this again as it makes all the difference in how successful you make your own compost. Firstly, as I’ve already mentioned, you need a mix of 50% carbon rich waste and 50% nitrogen rich waste. This keeps it simple, although you can do a 1/3 nitrogren and 2/3 carbon. The main thing is not to add too much nitrogen rich waste.
So carbon-rich waste is things like leaves, cardboard, pine needles, sawdust, straw, paper, and brown cuttings such as twigs and sticks. Nitrogen-rich waste includes your kitchen waste, so vegetable peeling, fruit, leftover vegetables, grass clipping, and fresh green trimming like herbaceous cuttings. You can learn more about what you can put into your compost tumbler here.
Top 6 compost tumblers that I have reviewed and compared:
- Envirocycle Composter
- Lifetime 189 Litre Compost Tumbler
- Outsunny 160L Compost Tumbling
- Good Ideas 140 Litre Twin Chamber Tumbling Composter
- Draper 07212 180 Litre Compost Tumbler
Compost Tumbler Reviews
1. Envirocycle Composter – Produces Both Solid and Liquid Compost
The Envirocycle Composter is an innovative, all-in-one system that comprises a compost tumbler drum and compost tea maker bottom, allowing you to enjoy the best of both worlds in the form of solid and liquid compost, similar to that you get from having a wormery which I’ve talked about here.
The whole thing is solidly built from food-safe, BPA and rust-free, antioxidant and UV-protected materials so it can withstand the UK elements outside. It weighs around 12kg and the version I recommend is the smaller 65-litre composter, although you can go even larger with the 133-litre option if you want one that is a little bigger. There are three air vents that allow optimum airflow whilst the drum’s door has an interlocking design to keep the lid tightly shut.
This tumbler is ready to use out of the box because it doesn’t require any assembly. This is a big advantage as most other models need assembling and can easily take an hour or two. The enclosed drum is great if you want to keep the composter on your balcony or patio and thanks to the compost tea collecting bottom, you can harvest excess liquid from the drum as compost tea and mix it with water to use as a fertiliser and feed plants. This kind of ‘tea’ is a magnificent liquid fertiliser to use on your plants and lawn, something you cannot get from most compost bins.
- Extremely durable tank constructed from food-safe, BPA-free, rust-free, antioxidant and UV protected materials.
- Capacity: 65 litres.
- No assembly required.
- Makes both solid and liquid fertiliser.
- 3 air vents.
- More expensive than other models on the market
Yes, it is a pricey compost bin. However, when you consider the ability to produce both solid and liquid fertiliser, the no-assembly design and the excellent build quality, this Envirocycle Composter might be well worth paying a little extra for. It’s a robust, weatherproof compost tumbler that will withstand many years of outdoor use and is a sizeable option for a family of four.
2. Lifetime 189 Litre Compost Tumbler
This Lifetime 189 Litre Compost Tumbler is a medium-size composter made of black plastic on a powder-coated steel frame. It’s quite a stylish design and it really does look good as a rounded cube as it rotates on its centre axis. All the materials used in the construction of the composter are weather- and rust-resistant. It’s a decent bit of kit!
This composter has an extra-large hinged lid that opens fully. This gives you plenty of opening space to put waste material in and, later, scoop out the compost. The aeration bar is across the width of the composter, just inside the lid.
All the sides of the composter look the same. So it was a good idea to make the handle to the lid a lime green colour to stand out.
One small downside is that some people, especially if your not the DIY type, may find it a little more difficult and complex to assemble. It comes flat-packed, so you even have to assemble the drum.
Bear in mind that this is a large composter so can become heavy to turn. And there is even a larger 378L size available in this model. But this is actually two of the smaller drums side by side on a stand.
- Black plastic and powder-coated steel tumbler composter shaped like a rounded cube.
- Extra-large lid is removable.
- Aeration bar mixes the compost and allows the air to flow through.
- Drum turns on its axis.
- Rust resistant and weather resistant.
- A little difficult and complex to assemble.
This Lifetime 189 Litre Compost Tumbler is worth a look if you compost quite a bit. And if you want a stylish, minimalist piece of equipment in your garden. This compost tumbler may become quite heavy to turn once it becomes full of compost, so keep that in mind. Overall, I think its well worth considering.
3. Hozelock 2 in 1 Drum Composter
The Hozelock 2in1 Drum Composter looks like a barrel on rollers. The rollers are how you rotate the drum rather than on its axis as with some other composters in this review. This drum composter is made from 90% recycled plastic, but all of it is recyclable when its time comes.
The 2 in 1 part of this composter refers to the solid and liquid compost that it creates. The best solid compost is created from a mix of 40% wet green compost and 60% dry brown compost. This is what’s made in the body of the drum but you could play around with different ratios and see what works best for you.
However, a patented “Click and Spray” collection container sits underneath the drum. This is where all the liquid of the compost flows into. This is equally as nutritious as compost and is called “compost tea”. You can hook this collection container up to your garden hose and spray the tea on your garden, mixed with water. Or decant it into a watering can, dilute it and use it that way.
Using this drum composter is easy. It has a large and wide lid that opens to give you a large entry way in which to put your waste and to take out the compost. You can get a fair size scoop into the drum to remove the “black gold”. And when it’s full of compost, that’s 40kg to 50kg of nutrition for your garden.
Use the handles on the side of the drum to rotate it on the rollers. The four air vents on the side of the drum are adjustable so you can choose how much oxygen to let in to assist the decomposition process. The manufacturer says that, instead of the usual six month process, this drum delivers workable compost in just six to eight weeks. But the compost tea is available much sooner than that.
And instead of loading the compost up into a wheelbarrow and taking it to your garden, you can just roll the compost drum there. Lift it off the rollers onto the ground and roll it over your lawn or along a pathway to your vegetable and flower beds. But be careful as it’s probably going to be heavy.
And the lid is lockable so you know it won’t spring open when you’re turning the drum or rolling it through your garden.
- Tumble drum composter on a rolling base system.
- Made from 90% recycled plastic.
- Wide, lockable hatch.
- Capacity is 100L: 75L for compost, 25L for mixing; 40kg to 50kg compost.
- Uses 40% green wet waste and 60% brown dry waste.
- Rolling base system for smooth rotation of the drum.
- Handles on the side of the drum to rotate it.
- Four air vents (adjustable) to let oxygen in.
- Compost available in just two months.
- Informational and instructional stickers on the top of the hatch.
- “Click and Spray” collection container under the barrel collects the liquid waste.
- Removable drum for taking to dispersal location.
- Easy to assemble.
If you like to deliver nutritional compost to your garden in multiple ways, the Hozelock 2in1 Drum Composter is definitely worth a look. The compost bubbling away in the drum stays dry and fluffy as its liquid is drained away into a collection canister under the drum to form compost tea. The lockable lid keeps everything in place when you’re turning or rolling the drum.
4. Outsunny 160L Tumbling Compost Bin
This Outsunny 160L Tumbling Compost Bin provides a continuous stream of compost through the year. It does this by having two chambers, each with an 80L capacity. This is a medium size composter so is not suitable for large gardens and those who compost a great deal.
The idea is that you put all your suitable waste material into one chamber until it’s full (usually 75% of the space available). And then leave that to happily decompose while you fill up the other chamber. You should have compost from the first chamber before you’ve filled up the second chamber. You then start adding more waste to the first chamber while using the compost from the second chamber. And so on.
The way into each chamber is through a sliding door. The doors are small (22.5cm (length) by 13.5cm (width) and don’t open very wide. Some online reviewers report that it’s a bit difficult to get waste into the chambers and compost out.
This compost drum is on a stand and rotates about its centre axis. There are no handles to rotate the drum so you have to turn it using the drum body. But the composter does have eight ventilation holes on each side of the drum to let oxygen in to support the decomposition process.
- Hexagonal rotating compost bin in grey and bright green.
- Made of polypropylene (drum) and steel (frame).
- Has two separate chambers, each 80L capacity.
- Drum is on a stand and rotates about its central axis.
- Sliding doors are the access into each chamber.
- Eight ventilation holes at each side of the drum.
- Protective gardening gloves included.
- Sliding doors don’t open very wide.
- No turning handle.
- Doors are not lockable.
The Outsunny 160L Tumbling Compost Bin suits a small to medium garden, and subsequent composting. One chamber of the drum can be producing compost while you’re “feeding” the other chamber. This helps with a continuous supply of fresh compost if you get the cycle right. You may need to experiment with this.
5. Draper 07212 180L Compost Tumbler
Raised compost tumblers take composting to a whole new level and the Draper 07212 is such a revolutionary composter. This tumbling composter has a unique action that speeds up the entire composting process. Basically load it with kitchen scraps (avoid meat products), garden prunings, grass clippings and tumble the bin consistently every 2-3 days.
It’s produced using a lightweight polypropylene material that is known for low density (weight saving), heat resistance and high stiffness. The 180L tumbler is held above the ground by a frame that has a lock and pivot points. One advantage of above-ground composters over ground composters is the assurance that air and moisture are uniformly distributed by the tumble action. Plus, being off the ground keeps the composter away from rodents.
The barrel has twin-ended access that can be used for filling and harvesting, plus there is an air circulation/drainage hole around the top. Draper Tools has specialised in producing innovative products and they have made an asymmetrical and ergonomic design for this tumbler to enhance its easy use. The tumbling action generally prepares the compost within 6-8 weeks.
- Made from lightweight Polypropylene material.
- Double-end access.
- Symmetrical design for easy use.
- Faster decomposition – 6-8 weeks.
- Tumbling action speeds up composting process.
- Size: 80 x 80 x 48.4 cm.
- Packaged weight: 10kg.
- The circular lids can be difficult to open, especially when wet.
- May take a while to assemble the tumbler.
- Heavy to turn when fully loaded.
The Draper O7212 Compost Tumbler is a nice bin and it does take like half-hour to assemble, despite the assemble in minutes sticker. It would have been nicer if it had wheels underneath it for the easy movement of the finished compost to the flower bed or farm. Still, it works great and delivers quickly. It better suits light vegetable scraps and garden waste.
6. Good Ideas 140 Litre Twin Chamber Tumbling Composter
With a packaged weight of 9kg, this Twin composter by Good Ideas is the lightest tumbling composter on our list and amongst the lightweight composters on the market. However, this weight is a sacrifice for the less capacity the twin composter holds, 140 litres combined, but it’s still enough to convert unwanted waste into useful compost. The small size of this composter means it takes up little space in the garden and is perhaps a brilliant idea for smaller gardens.
It’s easy to assemble at home following the instructions provided, a process that takes roughly 45 minutes. There’s even a video on Youtube on how to set it up in case you need a visual aid. It has a unique rotating action that accelerates the entire composting process and it’s not heavy to turn, unlike the other tumbling composters we’ve reviewed. The barrels have ventilation/waste openings to boost productivity. It’s advisable to tumble the bin after every 2-3 days for uniform decomposition and the compost should be ready in a matter of 6-8 weeks.
Another thing you’ll love about this composter is the heavy-duty construction, including the tough stainless steel frame. It can serve all year round without signs of wear. Its symmetrical design also makes it easy to turn without having to bend that much, even your children can do this for you.
- 140-litre capacity; each compartment holds 70 litres.
- Comes with assembly instructions.
- Robust construction for use throughout the year.
- Built-in aeration to speed up composting process.
- Size: 79 x 61 x 82 cm.
- Due to its smaller size, this tumbling composter is limited to smaller gardens.
- You may experience issues during assembly which will slow down the process.
This tumbling composter is relatively small, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage. This will be an excellent buy if you own a small garden. You can still purchase it if you have a large garden but you realise you’ll have to do so much work composting a large amount of waste. Our research also found that this Twin Chamber Tumbling Composter is the easiest to twirl whilst it’s also somewhat expensive.
It’s important to know that two types of composters are designed for heavy-duty action – compost bins and compost tumblers. These two types work incredibly well at composting garden waste yet there are notable differences. Knowing the attributes and benefits of both will help you arrive at the proper composter that suits your needs.
Here are the notable differences between compost tumblers and compost bins:
- Volume: Compost bins are generally larger than tumblers. They usually hold anything from 150-600 litres but that depends on the model. Due to their large size, they take longer to process compost than tumblers. You can accelerate the process by mixing things up with a pitchfork, yet most people don’t find the mixing process attractive. On the other hand, compost tumblers range between 100-400 litres. This is on account that the tumbler drum can be hard to spin under heavy loads. You might still find a large volume compost tumbler that’s easy to rotate, especially the ones mounted horizontally on their axis.
- Footprint: Both compost tumblers and bins take up almost the same ground area in the garden. A standard composter will take around 4-6 square feet. Bins are usually stationary because most of them have an opening at the bottom. Most tumblers are also stationary but it’s common to find some with wheels to move the unit around. Some designs can roll on the ground and this allows the ready compost to be discharged directly onto a particular site.
- Composting Time: Compost tumblers have a fast composting process due to improved air circulation and good heat retention. Our side-by-side comparison found out that under normal circumstances, the tumbler completed the process almost half the time of the bin. Bins usually hold more volume which somehow accounts for their slower compost processing. The process especially slows down considerably in winter. The tumbler, however, sends up a fog of warm air when opened in winter, implying that the composting process is still active. When a composter is rotated, fresh materials mix with the more composted materials. This has an impact of slowing the process down to some extent. A twin bin composter becomes a game-changer on that note because fresh materials are filled in one chamber whilst the second compartment is finishing off. Moisture levels also affects the composting process. Moist garden waste such as wet leaves, fresh grass clippings or vegetable scraps should be balanced with dry contributions. In such a manner, compost bins have an upper hand because they are open-bottomed – they deplete excess water promptly. There are tumbler models that have drain holes in the drum, and furthermore a collection chamber in the base to get the compost tea which is superb manure. It’s important to understand that the key to improving the composting time depends more on the carbon/nitrogen ratio and keeping up a damp (not wet) moisture level than the type of composter being used.
- Functionality: Compost bins are not by any stretch of the imagination built to make work easy for gardeners to mix or turn the materials. Sometimes it’s even difficult to use a pitchfork and get deep into the heap and mix it effectively. And when it’s time to harvest, it can also be hard to scoop the ready compost, even with the help of a shovel. The compost at the base is usually packed by the weight of the materials above and when attempting to get a shovel via the port, you risk chipping the sides of the port. However, compost tumblers are intended to make it less demanding to mix the compost because you only need to turn the drum a couple of times a week. This is the focal component of tumblers and it speeds up the composting process. In any case, turning a compost tumbler is not generally simple, especially when dealing with larger models – the unit gets heavy when about 3/4 full. This is particularly the case with vertically-mounted drums. Compost tumbler physics has it that horizontally-mounted drums are quite easy to turn, even when almost full. When it comes to compost harvesting, compost tumblers have an advantage over bins. A wheelbarrow will be significant when emptying a tumbler – just move it directly underneath the drum and dump compost right in.
- Toughness: Compost tumblers are intensely built because they should be sufficiently solid to hold the full weight of the materials. In this regard, they tend to be more durable than compost bins. When shopping for a compost tumbler, assess the supporting legs and the focal pivot connection, they ought to be tough enough to hold up to years of use. On the chance that handles are provided for turning the drum, be certain they aren’t shaky. Compost bins are constructed using thin plastic because they just need to contain the composting materials instead of supporting the weight. The thin plastic tends to become fragile in cold weather, excess exposure to sunlight or even after years of use. You need to be careful when removing the top and when discharging finished compost from the lower parts as the plastic can chip or crack with heavy use.
- Vermin Control: Both compost tumblers and bins do a good job with regards to keeping nuisances away from the compost. Compost tumblers are completely pest-proof because they are entirely closed. This also ensures the ground around the drum remains tidy at all times. With compost bins, raccoons and puppies have zero access inside, yet rodents can tunnel from beneath and even nest inside because of the encouraging ground warmth plus food being within.
- Odour Control: Both compost bins and tumblers control compost smell. When you open the cover, there’s a distinct composting smell that comes but it’s not too unpleasant. However, when the top is shut, you shouldn’t expect any foul odours coming from the composter, whether you are using a tumbler or bin.
- Cost: Price can sometimes be a deal-breaker for many good things. Generally, compost bins are cheaper than compost tumblers, about 40% lower in price for the equivalent capacity. When shopping, find a composter that has the best features in terms of size, functionality, durability and others that will suit your needs.
Last update on 2024-02-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API